Winners of White House Video Contest, Local High School Students Prepare a Trip of a Lifetime

By David Li,

On April 5, twelve teen students from Charlestown High School, most of them immigrated to Boston area with their families from China less than three years ago, will participate in a White House meeting as winners of a video contest. Started as a joint project between Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center(BCNC) and Charlestown High School, the Chinese Immigrant Student Leadership (ChISL) program played a major role in preparing these immigrant students transitioning from timid newcomers in school to leaders of tomorrow.

Charlestown High School students who participated in the video contest.

The video entitled, “My Voice – Their Stories,” was chosen from among 200 video entries submitted nationwide and received 11,000 votes. The White House has selected the BCNC’s youth video submission as a Champion of Change honoree. Champions of Change is part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” initiative that seeks to recognize ordinary Americans who aim to make an impact in their communities.

In the 2.5 minutes video, shot and edited by Chu Huang of BCNC and teacher Chikae Yamauchi of Charlestown High School, the 12 young students talked (in both English and Cantonese) about many difficulties they faced when they immigrated from China to Boston, including the separation from relatives and friends in China and the language barrier. They talked about the difficulties of communicating in a new language; the challenges of finding a community here in the U.S.; and the anxiety of being immersed in a new culture.

“For these young people, necessity breeds leadership,” Ms. Huang summarizes at the end of the video. These young students are working together to create positive changes in their community through the ChISL program. “We shot the video in one day as we didn’t have much time, and I was able to edit the video using iMovie as I learned video editing in an Asian American Studies course at Umass Boston,” Chu Huang told reporter during a phone interview. She is a recent graduate of UMass Boston.

According to a press release by BCNC, the ChISL program is a new leadership initiative for Chinese immigrant students at Charlestown High School focused on building their capacity to effect positive change in their school. The video features 12 youth who are part of this unique BCNC-Charlestown High School partnership that is funded in part by the Hyams Foundation.

During an interview with Janet Wu of Boston’s channel 5 TV station, executive director of BCNC Elaine Ng said “immigration is driving our growth. Our growth as a nation, and our innovation in economic, and cultural, social, and in arts is going to be based largely on people who come into this country.”

As a Champion of Change, the youths involved in the video have been invited to the White House to accept the honor as well as discuss their experience with White House officials. BCNC is seeking donations to send the youth to Washington D.C. for the event. According to Tina Chien of BCNC, they have raised about half of the $8,000 needed to cover the travel expenses so far as of Wednesday, March 28.

To watch BCNC’s video and make donation, please visit:
To watch the live stream of the event on April 5, 2012, please visit: